After Charleston: What will we do?

By Ronnie Miller Yow and Maxine Allen
Special Contributors

“Through many dangers, toils and snares we have already come…” –Amazing Grace

Ronnie Miller Yow

Ronnie Miller Yow

By the time you read this editorial, the horrific story of a 21-year-old, hate-filled domestic terrorist and the Charleston Nine will be beginning to fade in the news cycle. By that time most, if not all, of the funerals will be over. We hope the Confederate flag issue in South Carolina will be before the legislature, or at least the talk about talking will have resulted in some action.

While guns don’t kill people, access to guns makes it easier for someone to take the lives of others. We must acknowledge that the violence in our society must cease. We have attended prayer vigils, marched and mourned in the public square with the President of our nation. It’s time for action.

Everybody can do something; every congregation can do something. Our bishop is already leading the way. In his mission plan, he has asked each congregation to try to be in ministry with their mission field. The mission plan asks us to help improve the status of Black churches in Arkansas; and to focus on the “nones,” those without religious affiliation. In order to do these things, one must first experience spiritual revival.

Maxine Allen

Maxine Allen

If we individually and collectively experience spiritual revival, there will not be those who believe that they are outside of God’s love. Those who see “the other” as an enemy who must be destroyed are missing a key component of the acceptance that grace provides. We must draw the circle wider instead of closing ourselves off from a hurtful culture. We must demonstrate acceptance and love, just like the folks did at Mother Emanuel AME Church. After all, “they will know we are Christians by our love.”

We must move from reacting to acting—making sustainable efforts which will last beyond the interment of the Charleston martyrs. This is a short list of things you can do:

1. Move beyond ideology of the post-racial society.

2. Move beyond mere tolerance to embracing other ethnic groups and cultures.

3. Host a community discussion about racism that includes city and school officials. The UALR Institute on Race and Ethnicity can assist; visit www.ualr.edu/race-ethnicity to learn more.

4. Be intentional about developing genuine partnerships with other UMCs of different ethnic groups.

5. Contact the Pan-Methodist congregations in your community (such as African Methodist Episcopal, Christian Methodist Episcopal and African Methodist Episcopal Zion churches) to develop a collaborative worship experience, or youth program, or outreach ministry.

6. Complete a needs assessment in your community for opportunities to be in ministry with persons who are nones, those of different ethnic groups, and those whose first language is not English. This effort requires dialogue, because many times what we believe others need is not what they want at all.

7. Revisit the Arkansas Conference’s guide on Holy Conferencing (published in 2014 and available for free by sending a request to communications@arumc.org with the subject line “Holy Conferencing Guide”). Though written by the Human Sexuality Task Force, the guide can be applied to any subject that people of faith may find difficult to discuss together.

The Revs. Yow and Allen serve as the senior pastor and associate pastor of Wesley Chapel UMC Little Rock. Yow is a former national president of Black Methodists for Church Renewal. Allen also serves as the Arkansas Conference’s assistant director of mission and ministry for mission field engagement.